Caste is the key category in contemporary Indian social thinking. Discussed and analysed by historians, sociologists, and political scientists, it has produced scholarly explorations and polemical controversies in equal measure. The historical literature on caste from colonial times to the present is vast.
This anthology picks out some of the best essays on the subject in order to explore specific aspects of modern caste: how the issue of caste was understood in colonial times, how it was re-created under conditions of modernity, and how various castes came to relate to one another and to themselves in new ways. The essays also engage in debates that were first raised in these fields. Dumont’s notions about purity and power are questioned, while fresh perspectives are offered on jajmani.
For a long time, historians of modern South Asia have been trying to ascertain how far caste was invented, exaggerated, colluded with, and opposed. These two volumes provide the most essential and thought-provoking pieces on the subject.
Sumit Sarkar has been Professor of History at the University of Delhi. His many books include The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal 1903–1908 (1973; new edn 2010), Modern India 1885–1947 (1983), Writing Social History (1998), Beyond Nationalist Frames (2002), and Women and Social Reform in Modern India (2007; coedited with Tanika Sarkar).
Tanika Sarkar is Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has been a visiting professor at Yale and Chicago. Her several books include Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation (2001), Rebels, Wives, Saints (2009), and Women and Social Reform in Modern India (2007; coedited with Sumit Sarkar).